Dropping 24 points and 25 rebounds on the Heat, Howard tried to flex on his current team, telling media that he had informed the Magic he’d like to remain in Orlando for the rest of the season.
Hold the phone for a second. There’s more. From Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:
We have great opportunity to win here. I want to be there and bring a championship here, and they have to give me that chance...I’ll play hard every night and put them in position.
I don’t want to see that slip away. We got to take the chance. We have a chance to surprise lot of people and win. We been talking for awhile. I told them want to finish the season out, give our team, give our fans hope for the future.
Note that Howard thinks that telling his team that he will play hard every night is a good way to convince them to allow him to stay there after spending all of this season making it clear that he has no intention of staying.
Also, saying that the team “has” to give him the chance to bring a championship to Orlando is fun. With his coach and teammates having to deal with trade talk, desired destinations and endless speculation every day, Howard feels he's owed a chance to win with Orlando this year. Even though he wanted to go to New Jersey less than 24 hours ago. Makes total sense.
Why would Howard want to stay in Orlando to finish out the season? One look at the New York Knicks and what they had to give up to get Carmelo Anthony at the midpoint of the season will provide the answer. Going to another team as a free agent means that team doesn't have to be gutted in order to receive him.
I have no issue with a player looking out for himself first. This is a business. That’s being smart. The issue I have is with Howard putting the organization and its fans through these shenanigans all season.
Chris Bosh and LeBron James caught a lot of flak for how they handled their final seasons in Toronto and Cleveland before bolting for Miami (not to mention James and the fallout from "The Decision"). However, James and Bosh didn't spend months flip-flopping between publicly demanding to be moved and then lobbying to be given the chance to stay. They played their seasons out, fulfilled their contracts and chose to move on when the opportunity presented itself.
The disappointing thing about this is that superstars holding franchises and fanbases hostage is supposed to be something that this lockout addressed. We’re in the middle of a 66-game schedule because issues like this were supposed to be taken care of, and Howard’s situation in Orlando looks identical to where we were a year ago with the Nuggets-Anthony-Knicks triangle.
The only difference is that Howard has the advantage to learn from the foresight Anthony didn’t have, in recognizing that he was forcing New York into gutting their roster to acquire him.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports took the stance of the 10-year-old Orlando Magic fan last night. We may talk about what the Magic should do and what Howard shouldn’t have ever done, but we forget about the loyal fans who just want their superstar to stay. While the franchise and franchise player know this is a business, the parents shelling out hard-earned money to pay for tickets so their children can enjoy a game are going to be left explaining why Orlando’s Superman 2.0 claimed to want one thing while doing another.
Every player has the right to choose where he wants to play—when he is a free agent. If a player chooses to take matters into his own hands while under contract by demanding a trade, he needs to walk that line and see it through until the end. He shouldn’t be able to engage his franchise in an embarrassingly juvenile game of push and pull, where everything hangs in the balance of what he is feeling on this particular day or after that particular win or loss.
If a player wants to bolt and be viewed as the bad guy by their soon-to-be former fanbase, be OK with being known as the bad guy and bolt. If there’s uncertainty, keep quiet until a decision has been made. This whole superstar masquerading as a sideshow routine needs to be retired.
In the time that it took to write this post, news came out of Orlando via Christian Bruey of WFTV that Howard has apparently informed Magic officials that he wants to remain in Orlando for the rest of this season and next, bypassing the ETO he can exercise to become a free agent in July.
Before this becomes set in stone, he will need to sign papers waiving the right to the ETO. Ken Berger reports that Howard is in San Antonio with the team and that the ETO waiver is in his possession, but has not been signed.
Until this happens, nothing is for certain, and everything is a possibility as the trade deadline continues to creep closer.